April 26, 2010


In recent years successive government departments have promoted buses as an efficient way to combat global warming and traffic gridlock. We are encouraged to leave the car at home and catch the Number 44.

Sounds sensible on the face of it. But if you apply a smattering of logic it becomes obvious that it’s utter nonsense.

Consider this: even if the bus IS more efficient and greener – which I very much doubt – when sitting at a bus stop it creates a tailback of parked cars, all of which are producing more greenhouse gasses than if they were allowed to simply carry on their way.

And have you noticed that when you do finally manage to get clear of the bus that’s been holding back the line of cars (and there will be another just ahead, don’t worry) it’s carrying only one or two passengers? A great big bus with a great big engine pumping God-knows-what into the atmosphere so that two people and a dog can get to The Buroo. Hardly sounds like a way to save the planet.

Now, buses are probably a good idea at rush-hour, granted. But for the other 11 hours it’s the stop – go – stop journey these wheeled boxes create for all the cars stuck behind them that really irks. With every stop, more cars join the queue until the bus is leading a mile-long procession through the town.

This isn’t helped by the number of bus stops, either. Take Polbeth; a village hardly a half mile from beginning to end. But it has eight bus stops – plus a temporary stop – within the village. And just yards outside the boundary there are another four! That’s thirteen places where a bus can block the street and create a jam, keeping a line of busy individuals and delivery trucks from going about their business, while a couple of dozy passengers fumble around in bags and pockets looking for the right change. And that’s just one village. Does that sound sensible to you?

Yet drivers put up with it every day. The next time you’re driving around a West Lothian town, try driving at bus-speed and stopping every 100 yards to ask whoever happens to be on the pavement if they have change of a fiver. I guarantee you won’t get very far before one of the drivers in the following cortege pulls you from the vehicle and gives you a hefty slap – or the police pull you over. But buses get away with it.

The conclusion? If you want to free up the traffic and reduce air pollution in West Lothian it might make more sense to reduce the number of buses trundling around our roads, and encourage people to take the car.

Drew McAdam



April 11, 2010


It’s a question that has long puzzled our politicians and bureaucrats. And that question is: why do we have a booze-culture country? Why are so many of our youngsters so keen to try drugs? Why are young drivers racing the streets in souped-up bangers at 100mph and whacking straight into trees?

Well, I have a theory. And the theory is based on the fact that you reap what you sow.

When I was a kid I had a cart made out of wooden planks and the wheels from a pram. My mates and I quickly discovered that if you go really, really fast down a hill and you haven’t planned ahead or applied the brakes, you are going to get hurt. What’s more, the faster you go, the more it hurts.

By the time we took to bicycles we had already learned that lesson. We knew that heart-pounding thrills were a good thing, but that there were consequences if you pushed the limits.

And life was full of thrills. There was games of “knifie”, lighting fires, suicide rope swings, long bike runs, river swimming and climbing trees. A building site was a place to be explored – particularly if it had scaffolding.

These were all activities that added to the realisation that getting your kicks was part of feeling alive, but we had also been bumped, broken and grazed enough to know that there were limitations.

When we were old enough to ride motorcycles or get behind the wheel of the car we could enjoy the experience, though it was tempered with the knowledge that we were not immortal, and that the human body does not bounce.

Youngsters today have been starved of these thrills thanks to litigation and Health and Safety; and therefore starved of these lessons. They have been brought up in a cosseted-in-bubble-wrap environment where they even have to wear goggles to play conkers. Trees near playgrounds are cut down to ensure kids don’t climb them. I ask you!

It’s a world devoid of adventure and excitement. So, when they get a bit older, who can blame our youth for seeking out the thrills they were robbed of as young tykes? The result is experimentation with drugs and drink. They get in a car, feel the thrill of speed, and keep the pedal to the metal.

We have been so safety conscious that our kids have grown up but their life-experience has taught them naught. They are unscathed and unbruised. And, having grown up without learning the painful lesson of the balance between thrills and consequences, they are running full-tilt in an attempt to find that thrill of unfettered adventure of which we robbed them.

Our meek mantra of ultra-safety in everything has returned to haunt us. And it’s killing our kids.

Drew McAdam


April 4, 2010


OUR ancestors built towering cathedrals and vast roadway systems that crisscrossed the country. They also constructed thousands of miles of drystane dykes, canal systems and railways through the most desolate of landscapes. For tools, they had little more than picks and shovels.

Their accomplishments are incredible; from castles to the majestic buildings such as Hopetoun House, decorated in finely-crafted carvings, all done with an eye for detail. Perfection.

Just think of Linlithgow with its remarkable palace and the grand St Michael’s Church with its famous stained-glass windows. Throughout West Lothian even the buildings of only 100 years ago are constructed from carefully hewn blocks of stone to produce impressive edifices. Yet these craftsmen’s tool boxes were primitive, containing little more than a mallet and chisel.

Inside, the builders produced lavish freize work, wooden floors, oak panels and polished brass fittings.

What pride these builders must have taken in their work, that even today we still gaze upon their labours with awe.

Have you ever gazed at some of these achievements and wondered how it was possible? And have you considered what wonders they could have achieved in our times given the machinery, tools and technology they would have at their disposal today?

Unfortunately, these days the bureaucrats and bean-counters have taken over. Where builders should be producing even more stirring feats of planning and architecture, given the technology and the knowledge they have accrued over the centuries, all they can manage is concrete boxes, crumbling brickwork and a forest of rusting street furniture.

In these modern days we have Health and Safety madness, hi-viz jackets, plastic goggles, traffic cones and a mountain of red tape. Such is the constrictive legislation and absence of imagination that rather than constructing grandly inspirational buildings, adorned with ornate stonework, we can’t even get the potholes filled.

Our ancestors must be spinning in their graves.

Drew McAdam